MLS needs more nights like last night.
Those who wondered whether the hype for last night's tilt between Chicago and Chivas USA would exceed the contest itself were wonderfully disappointed. Too often these types of matches turn into damp squibs, but Chicago's 3-2 win advertised the very best of what MLS can offer. An interested and passionate crowd watched an exciting match between two sides that can pass the ball and were willing to play an open game. With three penalties, two late goals, a sending off, a long-distance bouncer from Paulo Nagamura, a stirring late comeback from the Fire and a controversial late penalty call to decide the match, the match offered something for everyone.
These circumstances – Mexican star Cuauhtemoc Blanco playing in Los Angeles in a matchup of the two conference leaders – may have provided the perfect storm, but what a storm it was. Was it Barcelona knocking the ball around the park in Wednesday's Champions League final? No, but it certainly provided the entertainment value of that match at a lesser, yet still quite adept, standard. More of the same would go a long way towards making the inroads MLS hopes to make among the general population who follows the World Cup and the Champions League while ignoring the domestic product.
The Forecast hopes to see seven more of those contests this weekend, but, in its first prediction for the matchday, doesn't expect to see another match like that one any time soon.
Last week: 4/7 (57%)
For the season: 30/63 (48%)
D.C. United @ New England – 7:30p.m.
The fortunes of these two teams have shifted since Ben Olsen grabbed a late equalizer to snatch a 1-1 draw back on April 17. New England hasn't won in six, while United hasn't lost in seven. United coach Tom Soehn expressed his hope this week that Shalrie Joseph would remain as a striker to help enable United's possession game. Then again, Joseph was in midfield when United bossed the middle of the park in the reverse fixture, so maybe his physical presence up top might throw the visitors off a bit. Keep an eye on Taylor Twellman; he'll be available off the bench and would give his teammates an immeasurable morale boost if he takes the field.
Colorado @ New York – 7:30p.m.
In this same fixture last year, Conor Casey snagged a hat trick to give Colorado a 5-4 win. One can only hope this match will meet that one in terms of excitement. That isn't likely considering New York can't afford a loss in this match. The Red Bulls will play seven of their next nine games on the road after closing out this four-match homestand (1-1-1) against the Rapids. Considering its road struggles (0-4-1), New York need to bank these three points. Colorado won't make it easy on them, particularly after a decent performance against Seattle last weekend and during a four-match unbeaten run, but New York will find a way to pick up three points while staring into the gauntlet of the next two months.
Prediction: New York win.
Toronto FC @ Houston – 8:30p.m.
The prodigal son returns home, so to speak. Dwayne De Rosario warmed up for his return to Texas with a goal in last Saturday's 3-1 win over New England. TFC didn't hit top form in that one, but the Reds have elevated their performance on the road (1-1-2) this season. They'll need an impressive performance against the Dynamo (unbeaten in six and winners of four of their past five) in order to get a result at Robertson Stadium. TFC fullbacks Jim Brennan and Marvell Wynne will have to pay careful attention to Brad Davis (two assists last week in a 3-1 win over San Jose) and Brian Mullan. The Reds should also avoid conceding set pieces after Houston's masterclass in that department last weekend. Even if those two facets break TFC's way, chances are De Rosario won't enjoy this reunion with his former teammates.
Prediction: Houston win.
Real Salt Lake @ San Jose – 10:30p.m.
San Jose, losers in five straight and winless in eight, travel back from a midweek jaunt to Columbus to play Real Salt Lake, losers in all but one of their five road contests this season. Something will have to give. Fortunately for RSL, that one positive road result came in last weekend's 0-0 draw at D.C. United. More of the same negative play on display in that one will be enough to earn them a point in this one. San Jose played its best half in quite some time in the first half of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Crew, but the Quakes don't appear to have the fluidity or creativity to break down RSL if the visitors can stay compact and shut down Ryan Johnson (scorer of five of his team's ten goals on the season).
Columbus @ Seattle – 10:30p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)
The key to this match won't be Sigi Schmid, no matter the lingering feelings ahead of the first meeting between his old team and his new team since his acrimonious offseason departure. Instead, the center of the park will prove crucial. Seattle missed Brad Evans, Freddie Ljungberg and Osvaldo Alonso (for 88 minutes) in last weekend's 2-2 draw against Colorado. With Ljungberg and Evans expected to play, Seattle will have two of its three key midfielders back in the side. Columbus won't have that luxury after Brian Carroll suffered a separated shoulder in a 2-1 midweek win over San Jose. Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said after the game that he'd rather have Carroll healthy than have the three points. With the dearth of options in that department (Duncan Oughton and Kevin Burns are the straight swap choices), that's an understandable sentiment. Look for Seattle to control the midfield and end the Crew's six-match unbeaten run.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Kansas City @ Los Angeles – 10:30p.m.
How will the Wizards adapt to a match without Josh Wolff and Santiago Hirsig? Both are key cogs in the Wizards' front six. Unlike other teams in the league, Kansas City has options in-house to replace them. Jack Jewsbury can slide deeper into midfield to fill Hirsig's role, while two of Herculez Gomez, Michael Harrington, Michael Kraus and Kevin Souter can come into the side to fill the gaps. At least Kansas City won't have to worry about the draw specialists from Los Angeles – sister-kissers in seven out of their last eight games – trying to push the tempo on them.
FC Dallas @ Chicago – 3:00p.m. (Telefutura)
After a late show to steal all three points at the Home Depot Center, the Fire will come in riding high. As if FC Dallas needed another obstacle in this already difficult contest, the already thin Hoops back line will miss the veteran Marcelo Saragosa (suspended) in this one. All signs point towards another weekend of frustration for FCD as Chicago will control the play and do just enough to grab all three points after the cross-country flight.
Prediction: Chicago win.
McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes
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